“To measure a leader, put a tape around his heart, not his head.” (John Maxwell)
Thousands of books from a wide range of leadership gurus and CEOs from business have tackled the question of what makes a great leader. Social media is awash with links to articles that carry titles like “Five ways to become a great leader by next Friday.” These advise us to cast a compelling vision, hire the best people, communicate with clarity, pursue excellence in every area…and so on.
These things are all true. But it seems that even apparently successful leaders so often ignore or fail to grasp one vital piece.
The best leaders love their teams.
I know. Talking about “leading with love” can sound a little sappy, weak, even awkward. Is there really a place for “love” in an organization committed to being effective, where there are high levels of accountability, and that needs to deliver outstanding results?
I have come to the conclusion that there is. In fact, I believe that a culture where leaders love their people is critical in organizations that do reach their full potential.
Many of us will have witnessed how, in the absence of loving leaders, businesses, nonprofits, schools, churches quickly become places filled with toxicity, abuse, bullying, and burnout. People become little more than commodities, quickly discarded, and feeling devalued, discouraged, or fearful. Morale plummets as burnout rates soar. The organization drastically underperforms as a result.
Showing concern, kindness, and compassion for those you lead rarely weakens the respect people have for you. It need not compromise the goals that your organization has. Instead, love is the foundation for bringing out the best in others, enabling them to grow, and nurturing a culture conducive to everyone being able to flourish.
I continue to learn and grow in this area. I certainly don’t always get it right. But this is what I am seeing as I observe other leaders who love their teams well:
We must show genuine concern for people. Seek them out and take time to get to know what inspires and empowers them. Learn about their families. Support them appropriately during challenging times in their personal lives.
We must listen well to people. Understand the concerns they have. Offer them your full attention in conversation. Make yourself available to talk when needed. Be generous with your time.
We must believe the best about others whenever possible. Do not jump to quick conclusions. Seek to understand people and situations, take time to reflect, and avoid overreacting under pressure.
We must invite and accept feedback from our people. Actively encourage them to ask questions and express their concerns about their work or decisions made. Ask for feedback on your performance and for ways in which you can serve them better.
When problems arise, we must address these sensitively and kindly. Loving people well means holding them accountable but doing so compassionately. And if someone does need to leave your organization, it should be as a last resort, handled as graciously and generously as possible.
In what practical ways can you and I lead with love this week?